Summer tanagers breed in the southeastern U.S., extending across Texas and into southern New Mexico and parts of Arizona. They are about 7 inches in length with wingspans of about 12 inches. Males are completely red and females are yellow with a greenish tint on the back and wings. The beak is thick, rather short, and blunt. Summer tanagers are found in open woodlands, favoring cottonwood and willow groves along watercourses, particularly in the drier southwest. The song is reminiscent of the robin, but slower and a bit more raspy in quality. Often the chicky-tucky-tuck call is heard high in the canopy when the bird is not singing.
The diet is primarily insects and other invertebrates, which it may take in flight or pick them off a substrate while hovering. The wide variety of prey also includes bees and wasps. Berries and fruits also supplement the diet when insects are not readily available. They may visit bird feeders in residential yards.
The female builds a shallow cup nest, using grasses, leaves, moss, and other vegetative components, into which she lays 3-5 green to turquoise eggs. Both parents will feed the nestlings. Summer tanagers migrate, spending winters in Central America and northern parts of South America.
The Audubon Society predicts that global warming will result in range expansions northward into central New Mexico as well as northward growth out of their current range in southeastern states. The population is currently stable except in the Colorado River basin, where drought and diminishing water supply has resulted in habitat losses and tanager population declines.